Hayley Nolan, the football sensation from Crystal Palace and Ireland National team squad, sat down with Niamh Tallon for a candid conversation about a subject often relegated to hushed tones - periods.
The talk revolved around shattering the stigma associated with discussing periods, the effects of menstruation on a professional athlete's performance, and the significance of preparation on and off the pitch.
— NEO (@Neo_Mgmt) September 12, 2023
Nolan transitioned to the professional stage when she joined London City Lionesses in 2020, following her time playing and studying in the United States at Hartford University. In April 2021, she made her senior debut during a friendly match against Belgium and is currently a part of the Ireland WNT squad.
Nolan openly discussed how menstruation has influenced her physical performance on the field. Regardless of the challenges faced, Nolan underscored the pivotal role of preparation in ensuring comfort during competitions.
Reflecting on her school days, Nolan recalled the limited discussions about periods and the embarrassment that often accompanied the subject.
"I got my period for the first time when I was about 15 or 16. When I was growing up, it was a conversation that I felt a bit uncomfortable having. Nowadays, I want other 15 and 16-year-olds to feel that they can have those conversations openly and freely. Half the population is dealing with this so it's not like something that we should be embarrassed about."
Nolan also added to her belief that schools and clubs should consider inviting professionals to speak with younger generations, breaking down the taboos surrounding periods.
Addressing the common tendency to use menstruation as a reason to sit out of physical activities, Nolan agreed that while some girls cannot participate due to the severity of their period pains, exercise can alleviate period-related discomfort.
Drawing on her four years of experience as a professional athlete for both club and country, Nolan explained the importance of understanding and tracking her menstrual cycle. Nolan shared how professional clubs use strategies to optimize performance for female football players during the menstrual cycle through asking players to track their cycle, and providing nutrition advice leading up to the period week - eating well, maintaining hydration, and prioritizing post-training recovery.
— Her Sport (@HerSportDotIE) June 27, 2023
Discussing the challenges faced by female footballers, including playing in white shorts while representing Ireland, Nolan expressed the need for adaptation to modern realities. She commended the ongoing conversations within the Ireland national team regarding period management, mentioning the provision of period shorts and skins as part of the preparation for the World Cup.
Nolan firmly believes that clubs at all levels, including grassroots, should make period products readily available to girls, contributing to their continued participation in sports.
"Growing up, I wish I was more comfortable and had the confidence to ask more questions so that I could get the answers that I needed. So that's the advice I have – it's important to ask those questions and not feel embarrassed by it because we all have it at the end of the day."
Watch the full episode on Youtube or listen on Spotify.
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